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Why the Samsung Galaxy S4’s overshadowing of the HTC One is a crying shame

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HTC One
HTC One

Introduction

We’re just a day away from the Samsung Galaxy S4’s launch in New York. Just like it did last year, Samsung’s flagship phone will wipe away almost all of the hype Sony and HTC managed to scrape together for the Sony Xperia Z and HTC One in launching that bit earlier.

We have the HTC One at Trusted towers right now, and that it’s destined to live in the shadow of the Samsung phone seems a real shame to us.

Making the Right Moves

Why? Because a lot of its priorities and design choices are clever, interesting or just downright good.

The good stuff starts as soon as you get your hands on the phone. Its back is a plate of smooth, curved anodised aluminium, offering superior ergonomics to the iPhone 5 and that phone’s same hard, cool feel.

The Samsung Galaxy S4, on the other hand, is likely to feature an uninspiring plastic body with a flimsy battery cover. For phones that have drummed-up masses of mainstream appeal, that the Samsung Galaxy S mobiles’ bodies are so drab-feeling is a bit of a jaw-dropper.

Attention to aesthetic detail in the HTC One just seems that much greater. It may not be quite a work of art, but the bevelled edges, the two-tone white and silver design and the curvature of its rear all feel immaculately contrived. In a good way.

UltraPixel – the Beginnings of a Good Idea

HTC is one of just a few mobile phone makers that is doing interesting things with the tech inside phones too. We’re talking about the UltraPixel camera of the HTC One.

The term UltraPixel is nothing more than marketing guff, of course, but what it refers to is genuinely interesting.

The HTC One has a reasonably innovative camera sensor. It’s not huge – it’s around the same size as that of the competition – but its sensor pixels are much larger than normal.

This means HTC was only able to fit four million of them in, where the Samsung Galaxy S4 is likely to have 13 million sensor pixels, but using such a sensor is an intriguing two fingers up to the dreary megapixel-matching specs war fought by other mobiles. Did you know that almost all the flagship phones of 2013 will use the same 13-megapixel Sony sensor?

And, of course, most of them will claim superiority in some way or another. It’s all terribly dreary, isn’t it?

In our opinion, UltraPixel isn’t quite there yet in execution, as the detail trade-off is just too severe. However, it sees HTC striking out in a different direction to the competition, in a manner that we can only compare to Nokia’s PureView phones.

The rumours surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S4 suggest it’ll be a box-ticking iterative successor to its predecessor the wildly successful Galaxy S3. The HTC One is anything but this.

Does Success Matter?

You might ask – what’s the problem? We already have the HTC One. It has been made, so shouldn’t we just be happy about that?

That the HTC One is bound to be such a smaller-scale phone than the Samsung Galaxy S4 means that the interesting stances made by the One are unlikely to gain traction, to sway the mobile market away from its current course. Why is it that struggling companies like HTC and Nokia seem to be the ones taking the most interesting risks these days?

When the Tables Turned

HTC was once the star of the smartphone market – so when did this all change? 2011 was the year fortunes seem to turn for HTC.

Its high-end phones lacked the direction and unified messaging of Samsung’s easy-to-comprehend mobiles. The Sensation phones and their wide array of different versions caused a confusing message that ruined the series’s impact like an asteroid breaking into fragments small enough to burn up on entry into the atmosphere. And they just weren’t that good.

The issue of confused messaging is an ongoing one too. This new phone is called the HTC One, but there have been a bunch of phones released with similar names – anyone remember the HTC One X, One S and One V? Somehow, HTC thought it was a good idea to just lop off the final letter. That won’t confuse anyone, will it? Surely not when many people know the One X as the “HTC One” anyway, right?

These face-to-palm problems aren’t doing the HTC One any favours.

We’ll be back with the full review of the HTC One soon, but unlike some of HTC’s recent phones, this feels like a worthy flagship device. But we’ll have to wait to find if it’ll side-step its issues and sell a boat-load.

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